The University of Tasmania (UTAS) has announced an external review of international admissions processes following allegations students are being admitted despite not meeting English requirements.
- UTAS was named in a Four Corners report investigating English standards at Australian universities
- A statement released today announces an external review into international admissions to be conducted by an independent expert
- The vice-chancellor denies students are seen as “cash cows”, says “we care intrinsically about our international students”
Four Corners, which will air tonight, contains allegations Australian universities have been waiving their own English entry standards in a bid to attract more high-paying international students.
The report cited an email from a UTAS staff member, which referred to “waiving” English requirements.
“As a part of our last-mile efforts to encourage acceptances for July 2018, the university will be waiving the English condition in order to assist the students who are yet to meet their English conditions,” the email read.
The email went on to say students could provide documents to the university showing work experience in English, or two English tests combined where one fails to reach the admission standard in an attempt to get an English waiver, the Four Corners report said.
In a statement released this afternoon, UTAS vice-chancellor Professor Rufus Black denied the university treated international students like “cash cows”.
“We care intrinsically about our international students. They are not cash cows as they have been described by the program; they are people who come to our university to learn,” Professor Black said.
Independent expert Hilary Winchester will conduct the external review, which the statement said would provide a “broad, deep health check” of admissions processes.
Professor Black said a senior group of university leaders would oversee admissions until recommendations from the review were introduced.
“We want to be a university that is focused on high-quality education for qualified international students,” Professor Black said.
“We also have made it very clear within our new institutional strategy that we are taking a right-sized approach and that the march for constant growth is not part of our future.
“I am concerned, having seen the claims from Four Corners, that the changes we have been introducing to align to those two things have not had enough impact soon enough.”
‘Medium of Instruction’ letters to no longer be accepted at UTAS
The Four Corners report found some universities were accepting “medium of instruction” (MOI) letters for postgraduate students from India and Nepal which stated that students had previously studied in English.
However the Home Affairs Department said an MOI letter would “not meet the legislative requirements” for visa applicants if the student was asked to provide evidence.
On the UTAS website, it states students are exempt from showing evidence of English proficiency “if you can provide evidence that English was the sole medium of instruction and examination in your most recent full-time studies”.
Professor Black said he had made it “very clear we will no longer be using alternative paths, including accepting Medium of Instruction letters, for future students not already in the admissions process”.
In a communication to staff he said: “We have work to do in this area. We will report back as we do it.”
Student union welcomes international students
Tasmanian University union president Sharifah Syed Rohan said it was important the episode drew attention to the university’s practices.
“[I hope it] really encourages them to improve their practices to ensure that all international students are afforded the same education as domestic students and to ensure that they’re equipped with the skills necessary to complete their degrees,” she said.
She said the union would call on the university to “provide adequate support to students” who needed help with their English, and agreed the exemption letters should be scrapped.
“I think it’s important that they do have the testing which is required at all other universities throughout Australia because then we’re able to benchmark our students and provide them with the support we’re required to improve their English language skills,” she said.
But she said she does think international students are “cash cows”.
“I think there are a lot of misconceptions within the wider public about the role of international students in our community. The union welcomes international students and believes that they bring a depth of knowledge to our university and communities.”